Of the many things that I have gained from my vegetarian lifestyle, one of the most significant is the ability to cook. Before I stopped eating meat, my cooking “skills” consisted of opening boxes and bags of processed food and calling for pizza delivery. But, ironically, limiting the type of food that I was willing to consume meant that I would now have to eat many things that I never had before and, in doing so, forced me to expand my available methods of food preparation.
Now, I pride myself on being able to look into my fridge or my pantry, see an ingredient that I want or need to use and craft a dish around it. This ability to cook simple, fast meals from scratch has given me complete control over my diet and health, as well as the confidence that comes from knowing that I can feed myself in a healthy, sustainable way.
Over the years, I have developed a small arsenal of staple dishes that can be made with what I generally have on hand at all times. This chili is one of those dishes. It is highly versatile, so if you don’t have everything on hand, it’s okay – substitute a can of green chilies for the jalapeno, or a green pepper for the red, or butternut squash for the sweet potato. It can even be made in the slow cooker – just toss everything in and cook on low for six to eight hours. And this is a perfect dish in which to use those dried beans I discussed in my last blog post!
Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- One medium onion, diced
- One large or two medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
- One red bell pepper, diced
- Two cloves garlic, diced
- One small jalapeno, seeds and ribs removed, diced
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp paprika
- 2 tbsp chili powder
- Pinch ground cayenne pepper
- One 16-ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed
- One 16-ounce can of diced tomatoes, undrained
- Two cups water
- Salt to taste
- Fresh cilantro for garnish
Heat oil in a dutch oven or other heavy soup pot. Add onion, sweet potato and red pepper and cook for about 5 minutes. Add garlic and jalapeno and cook for one additional minute. Add spices and cook until they become fragrant – about one minute. Add the beans, tomatoes and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until the sweet potatoes are soft, adding more water if chili becomes too thick. Season with salt and garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve and enjoy!